Workflow Wizard 2:: The ExpoDisc

Back on the workflow challenge again, trying to speed things up. After watching the excellent course by Zack & Jody Gray on Creative Live last week, I was amazed at how little time they spend on post production. Start to finish, from importing the images to album design takes them just five and a half hours. Now that's fast, really fast!

So what's the secret? Zach & Jody say it's all down to getting white balance and exposure consistent and accurate in the camera using an ExpoDisc. So I thought I'd give it a go and happily handed over my cash to the nice man at Warehouse Express. So two days later and £79+p&p lighter, I received a 77mm ExpoDisc in the mail. The first thing I noticed was that it didn't have any threads to let you screw it on to a lens. It just stuck on the front of my 85mm 1.4 as if by magic (it might actually be magnets). Buy the size for your largest lens and then just hold it over the front of your Smaller ones. It even works on the tiny X100 lens. The ExpoDisc works by using your camera Custom White Balance function. Canon users get the short end of the stick here, as there are more steps involved in setting a custom white balance and you need to either put the camera on manual focus, or get used to using back button focus. But as I don't own a Canon DSLR, I can't go into detail about how to go about it here (please check your manual). I'll be using a Nikon D300s for this test, but you can apply it to the method your camera uses.

You need to have your camera set to Manual Mode and Custom White Balance. For most Nikon cameras, you would press and hold the WB button on the top left of the camera, then turn the thumb dial until the display reads 'Pre' (right hand side).

Now before I go any further; getting the correct exposure is not an exact science with the Expodisc, and even more so with a Nikon. To get an exposure reading and set custom WB, stand where your subject is and either point the lens back to your shooting position, or toward the light source (as you would with a light meter). Which one you choose will depend on the lighting conditions, but mostly it will be back toward your shooting position. Please note that the exposure reading you get from a Nikon differs by 1 stop when the camera is set to grab a custom WB (flashing 'Pre'). 1a. Camera pointing back toward shooting position, and exposure set before entering into custom WB capture mode (flashing 'Pre'). 1b. Camera pointing back toward shooting position, and exposure set after entering into custom WB capture mode (flashing 'Pre'). 1c. Camera pointing toward light source, and exposure set before entering into custom WB capture mode (flashing 'Pre'). 1d. Camera pointing toward light source, and exposure set after entering into custom WB capture mode (flashing 'Pre').

NIKON D300s: Setting custom WB.

  • 1. Place the ExpoDisc on the front of your lens with the white side facing the lens.
  • 2. Hold the camera in front of your subject and point it back toward your shooting position (see above).
  • 3. Adjust your ISO to suit the lighting conditions.
  • 4. Set the aperture to what you want to use.
  • 5. Set your shutter speed making sure it's at least one over focal length (50mm = 1/60).
  • 6. Make sure your meter readout is centre (correct exposure).
  • 7. Press and hold the WB button until 'Pre' flashes.
  • 8. Press the shutter button to fire a shot (it won't show up on your memory card).
  • 9. The camera display should be flashing 'good' to confirm success.
  • 10. Remove the Expodisc and shoot. Adjust shutter speed if you need to adjust exposure.


The steps above look a lot, but it actually only takes a few seconds to do.

The following examples of different light types are shot as follows. Left image. Aperture Priority and Auto WB. Centre image. Manual mode with exp/WB taken toward shooting position. Right image. Manual mode with exp/WB taken toward light source.

DAYLIGHT (from window on a cloudy day)
The shot on the left is auto WB and the shot on the right  is using the ExpoDisc (cloudy windo light).

I'm pleased with the ExpoDisc and I'm looking forward to trying it out on a proper job with different lighting conditions. If it can save a lot of time in post it will be worth the money. If your exposure and white balance are consistent and correct, a preset in Lightroom or Aperture could be applied at import to add a bit of contrast. That should de-flatten RAW images and give you files that are spot on.


My  friend Patrick LaRoque asked in the comments, if there was much difference between the ExpoDisc and a regular grey card? So I tested a few options and to be honest there isn't a lot of difference. I think the ExpoDisc is a little more user friendly when it comes to shooting on the go. Even the Colour Checker Passport has a small grey card which is handy, but doesn't fill the frame. Being able to use the ExpoDisc to set exposure is a bonus to. Have a look at the results below or click here for a larger version.